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Time is Now to Invest in Peace in Iraq, DoD Official Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 8, 2003 – The next year will be critical in Iraq, and now is the time to invest in peace, Peter Rodman, assistant defense secretary for international security affairs, told the House Armed Services Committee here today.

Former Deputy Defense Secretary John Hamre, who served as chairman of a group that examined the situation in Iraq and made recommendations to DoD, also said he believes speed is crucial. "I fear the American willingness to stay the course (in Iraq) is eroding -- and I fear it is eroding significantly," Hamre told the committee.

"We cannot walk away from this challenge in Iraq," he continued. "We have to succeed. I look to worrying trends that the public thinks this is not worth the effort. We cannot walk away from this."

Rodman told the committee that polls taken in Iraq show the people are ready to accept a period of hardship as the accompaniment of "this difficult period of transition," but that patience has limits. He said the Iraqi people have a right to see progress, and it is in U.S. interests to speed that progress. Doing so will "vindicate" Iraqi patience and help sustain the drive to a democratic future, he said.

Rodman told the representatives "a major commitment now offers a maximum chance of having a decisive impact."

He said the coalition effort in Iraq has been a success, and now is the time to invest in the progress that has been achieved. "Cutting corners may only add to the risk," he said. "It may only dilute or weaken the effectiveness of what is being done now, and end up being more costly in the long run."

Rodman spoke about the recommendations Hamre's group made and how the Defense Department and the Coalition Provisional Authority are implementing the recommendations.

One recommendation was to "internationalize" the rebuilding effort. He noted 45 countries have offered troops for the security in Iraq, and the United States is speaking with others. He said a donor's conference is planned in Madrid next week so other countries may contribute to the effort.

The Hamre Commission recommended giving the Iraqis a "stake" in the outcome. Rodman said the stand-up of the Iraqi Governing Council in July, the appointment of department ministers in August and local councils across the country are examples of the move toward returning the government to the Iraqi people. He also pointed to the more than 70,000 Iraqis now armed, uniformed and trained to protect their country.

Rodman said economic and political progress in the country depends on security and public safety in all parts of the country.

"That's a precondition for the achievement of every other goal that we have," Rodman said. "We believe progress has been made. Most of the country is secure, and the lives of the Iraqi people are improving." He noted the Iraqi security forces -- the Iraqi police, the Civil Defense Corps, border police and the new Iraqi army -- are helping coalition forces maintain order in the country.

"Turning Iraqi affairs over to Iraqis as soon as possible is what the mission is," Rodman said. "That's what we're there to do: to turn the country back to Iraqis in the context of freedom."

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